An Addition To The List:Posted: October 2, 2007
The drunk man in the old-man pub in Surrey, who compounded my feeling that I do not ever want to live there. It was a reasonable discussion. Up to a point. Short version:
“I don’t want to live in Surrey”
“But… But…. But why?”
“There’s no diversity. It’s boring.”
“You could live in Woking,”
“Yes, but Woking’s grotty”*
“Ah, but that’s because of all the blacks and Pakis there….”
And something inside me just snapped. I’ve heard it before. Doubtless I’ll hear it again. But this time I felt a pure, blinding rage. It’s the nearest I’ve ever got to throwing a glass at anyone.
You see, mostly, when I hear that word, it’s because people are using it deliberately, aiming it at me. That’s a nasty thing to do, certainly. But it’s not as revolting as what he did. Because what he did was think “you look white. You speak the Queen’s English. Therefore, you are English. Therefore, you will not mind me using openly racist words and holding openly racist opinions.”**
I AM NOT FUCKING ENGLISH.
This is why I love the summer. It’s why I love the sun, and why I’m never quite so happy in the winter. Because, you see, in the summer, I look dark. And I don’t hear so much of the insiduous racism. I only hear it if people are actually out to insult me, which, happily, is a rare occurrence.
Soanyway…. I was polite. I didn’t swear. I simply said – with the italics and the bold and everything, which is fairly hard to articulate! –
“don’t ever use that word in front of me.”
And, perhaps because he was drunk, perhaps because he was a knob, or perhaps because he’d been brought up to think that men are always right, he didn’t think to appologise, or even ask which word offended me. No, he just kept saying “but it’s true though, isn’t it? It’s true, you know it is….”
Eventually I regained the use of my legs, which had been locked in place (looks I veer towards choosing Fight rather than Flight, doesn’t it?!) and walked away. But bloody hell, it was hard. It was so hard to not attempt to kick the shit out of him. Even though he was about double my size and it would never have worked. I really, really wanted to try.
* Woking does indeed seem fairly grotty. But this is not for the reason Mr. Drunk put forward.
Because if that were the case, anywhere with a different ethnic make-up to ‘almost exclusively white’ would also be grotty.
We know this is not the case. Lewisham is not grotty. Certainly not my area of lewisham, which is terribly middle class. With nice houses and schools and parks and cafes that aren’t big corporate places and a transport system that actually works, give or take a bus or two, and yes, many people that don’t identify as “White, English” on forms.
And guess what? That’s part of what makes it nice. I liked the Turkish man who ran my old favourite cafe with his son and his son’s wife. I like the fact that when he gave it up it was taken over by some black people, who have made it look beautiful. I like the fact that there’s a woman in my new favourite cafe who hails from somewhere eastern European, and that her colleague is either Chinese or something like it. I like the fact that I can’t quite place them. They say variety is the spice of life. Let other people eat their bland roast dinners; I’m having Mum’s curry.
** The assumptions there are the scary things. My children, when I have them, will most likely look white. I don’t know if they’ll feel white. And I get very sad at the thought that they might have to experience things like this.